Biography of Adam Kirsch
Adam Kirsch (born 1976) is an American poet and literary critic. He is on the seminar faculty of Columbia University's Center for American Studies, and has taught at YIVO.
Kirsch was born in Los Angeles in 1976. He is the son of lawyer, author, and biblical scholar Jonathan Kirsch. He started writing poetry around the age of 14 after encoutering the poetry of T.S. Eliot: "Eliot showed me the possibility of finding in poetry a source of complex intellectual and moral interest." He graduated from Harvard University with a B.A. in English in 1997, and managed to begin his career as assistant literary editor for The New Republic. Next he worked as the editor for Lipper Publications.
For a while, Kirsch made his living as a freelance writer, and he has regularly written freelance articles for many different publications including Slate, The New Yorker, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, and Poetry. Richard John Neuhaus, writing in First Things, called Kirsch "a literary critic of some distinction." Writing in The Nation, John Palattella describes Kirsch as "the intellectual offspring of the New Formalists." Currently, Kirsch is a contributing editor to Harvard Magazine and Tablet Magazine and the author of the weekly column "The Reader" on Nextbook. He also currently holds the position of senior editor for The New Republic, the publication where he started his writing career.
Over the course of his career, he has written reviews and feature articles on a diverse array of poets and novelists, including Charles Bukowski, Emily Dickinson, Kay Ryan, T.S. Eliot, Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, Richard Wilbur, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Dylan Thomas, John Keats, Saul Bellow, John Updike, Hart Crane, and David Foster Wallace. He has also written articles on assorted cultural issues, covering topics like rap music, America and the Roman Empire, the relationship between conservative politics in America and the writings of Ayn Rand, and the importance of literary criticism.
Kirsch has published two books of poems, The Thousand Wells and Invasions, as well as non-fiction books on Benjamin Disraeli and Lionel Trilling. The Thousand Wells won The New Criterion Poetry Prize in 2002. His poems have also appeared in many magazines including The Paris Review, Partisan Review, The Formalist, Harvard Review, and The New Criterion.
In an interview with Contemporary Poetry Review, Kirsch cited Derek Walcott, Glyn Maxwell, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, Adam Zagajewski, Rachel Wetzsteon, Dennis O'Driscoll, Geoffrey Hill, and Jacqueline Osherow as his favorite contemporary poets and Helen Vendler, Frank Kermode, Dana Gioia, William Logan, and Robert Potts as his favorite contemporary poetry critics.
Adam Kirsch Poems
Now That No One Looking
Now that no one looking at the night— Sky blanked by leakage from electric lamps And headlights prowling through the parking lot Could recognize the Babylonian dance
The Butcher's Apprentice, 1911-1914
The high white collar and the bowler hat, The black coat of respectability, The starched cuff and the brandished cigarette Are what he has decided we will see,
Now That No One Looking
Now that no one looking at the night—
Sky blanked by leakage from electric lamps
And headlights prowling through the parking lot
Could recognize the Babylonian dance
That once held every gazer; now that spoons
And scales, and swordsmen battling with beasts
Have decomposed into a few stars strewn
Illegibly across an empty space,
Maybe the old unfalsifiable